Julian Savea will line up for the Barbarians against New Zealand live on Sky Sports on Saturday after being left out of Steve Hansen’s squad for the autumn internationals.
All Blacks selector Grant Fox says the door has not closed on Savea, advising that the 27-year-old’s international future lies in his own hands – and says that either way, being absent from the New Zealand camp will ultimately benefit Savea.
“Time away will help him rekindle that fire again – we often find that happens,” Fox told RadioLIVE.
“You don’t sometimes appreciate what you’ve got till it’s not there anymore.”
“The ball’s in Jules’ court. I think what Julian really needs is to have a really big off-season, get himself in the best possible shape. He can find his speed and agility again.”
This weekend Savea has the chance to make a big statement by causing chaos at Twickenham, but no matter how much the world talks about the opportunity in front of him, the winger refuses to join the conversation.
“I’m taking it as just another game, trying to play as well as I can and get involved as much as I can,” Savea told Sky Sports. “I’m excited for the challenge.”
A constant for the All Blacks since making his debut against Ireland in 2012, Savea has since amassed 54 caps for the world champions – but only two of those Tests have come in 2017.
The two-time World Player of the Year nominee started in New Zealand’s demolition of Samoa in June, but lost his place to Rieko Ioane during the Lions series in the same month – though he did start in the third and final Test in July.
Barbarians vs New Zealand
November 4, 2017, 2:55pm
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Savea then played no part in the Rugby Championship, and now having been left out of the squad for the November internationals he looks set to go a full year without an international under his belt.
Despite all that, Savea talks positively about his omission, pointing out the depth of talent in New Zealand, and says it hasn’t diminished his hunger to compete for a spot.
“There’s definitely a lot of competition out there, which is good for New Zealand rugby,” said Savea.
“The more the guys are playing to the best of their abilities, as Rieko Ioane has shown as a world class winger, it’s just going to evolve the game even more.
“I’m enjoying the challenges – no doubt there is definitely a goal to get back into the black jersey.”
The black jersey may be the long-term goal, but the black and white jersey has his full attention at the moment, and Savea refuses to add to the mantra that Barbarians rugby is all play and no work.
“You’ve got to be competitive and at the end of the day I’m really competitive – it’s us against them.
“For me, it’s just about having a good performance and actually having a real chance to go out there and win.”
Savea says he is enjoying the atmosphere of the Barbarians camp and believes their style suits the way he likes to play the game.
“It’s an honour and a privilege. I’m lucky to be a part of this team. I love the positivity in terms of the way they attack – no fear, just letting our skills play.”
And if he was able to score a try against his countrymen on Saturday?
“It would mean a lot, especially against the All Blacks.”
Whether or not Savea manages to score against the team he helped to a World Cup title two years ago, there are sure to be plenty of fireworks at Twickenham this weekend when ‘the Bus’ is unleashed on the men in black.